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Archive for the ‘Linchamientos’ Category

Aeon_LogoAeon es una revista digital que se publica desde del año 2010, dedicada  a la producción y diseminación “of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web.” Semanalmente publican artículos de temas muy  variados, donde destacan la filosofía, las ciencias y las artes.

En su edición del 8 de agosto de 2019, Aeon comparte con sus lectores un documento de gran utilidad para entender los debates raciales y sociales en la sociedad estadounidense de la década de 1960. El 26 de octubre de 1965, el escritor y activista afroamericano James Baldwin y el intelectual conservador William F. Buckley debatieron en la famosa Cambridge Union Debating Society. La discusión giró alrededor de una de las preguntas claves de la historia estadounidense: Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro? Este interrogante va directo al papel que jugó la esclavitud en el desarrollo de lo Estados Unidos.

Baldwin-Buckley.jpg

La Cambridge Union Debating Society fue fundada en el año 1815, y desde entonces ha sido una foro para la discusión y debate de ideas. En  sus más de doscientos años de vida, la Union ha contado con figuras como Anthony Eden, David Lloyd George,  Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Jawaharlal Nehru, el Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Judi Dench,  Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Hawkings, entre otros.

El debate entre Baldwin y Buckley se da en el contexto de la lucha de los afroamericanos por sus derechos civiles, la guerra de Vietnam y el desarrollo de la contracultura. Buckley y Baldwin reflejan las grandes diferencias en como los progresistas y  los conservadores entendían (y entienden)  la historia estadounidense, la justicia social y el racismo. 

No puedo dejar de citar a Baldwin, que con la claridad que los caracterizaba señaló lo siguiente:

This means, in the case of an American Negro, born in that glittering republic, and the moment you are born, since you don’t know any better, every stick and stone and every face is white. And since you have not yet seen a mirror, you suppose that you are, too. It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, or 6, or 7, to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you. (1)

Los interesados en esta joya pueden acceder aquí.


(1) https://www.rimaregas.com/2015/06/07/transcript-james-baldwin-debates-william-f-buckley-1965-blog42/

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red-summer-chicago

Chicago, 1919

Este año conmemoramos el centenario de uno de los episodios de violencia racial más vergonzosos de la historia estadounidense, el llamado Red Summer. En 1919,  se registraron en Estados Unidos 89 linchamientos y 25 motines raciales en un periodo de siete meses.  El peor de estos motines duró trece días en la ciudad de  Chicago y causó 38 muertes y 537 heridos, dejando a mil familias sin casa. El regreso de miles de veteranos negros de Europa fue visto por muchos blancos como una amenaza contra el orden racial predominante. Los veteranos negros regresaron pensando que sus sacrificios en defensa de la nación serían recompensados con un trato más justo de parte de su sociedad. Desafortunadamente, sus expectativas no se cumplieron, pues a su regreso continuaron siendo víctimas del racismo y la discriminación. Sus justos reclamos fueron respondidos con violencia.

A-white-mob-attempts-to-abduct-a-black-man

Turba de hombres blancos tratando de secuestrar a un negro.

Se desconoce el número exacto de afro-americanos que fueron asesinados durante los siete meses que se extendió la violencia en su contra. Se sospecha que fueron cientos. Tal nivel de violencia inspiró al poeta afroamericano Claude McKay su famoso poema “If We Must Die”.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

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Invisible Empire: An ‘Imperial’ History of the KKK

Dr. Kristofer Allerfeldt
History Department, University of Exeter

Imperial & Global Fórum  July 7, 2014

invisible-empireInvisible EmpireHistorians are used to the concept of formal and informal empires. They are used to empires expanding and empires declining. Most are perhaps less familiar with a concept bandied about in the United States from the late 1860s to the mid-1930s – that of an “invisible” empire.

In reality this empire was anything but invisible. Born in the turmoil of the post-Civil War South, by the mid-1920s it had spread to all mainland states of the Union, claiming some ten million members.

It was also known as the Ku Klux Klan.

As with much of the history of the KKK, the origins of the term “Invisible Empire” are disputed. Some claim that it emerged from Confederate General Robert E Lee’s polite request to keep his support for the nascent Klan “invisible”. Others see it as a part of the secrecy surrounding the original hooded fraternity. Whichever origin is chosen, there’s no doubting it was a useful phrase.

Arguing that Lee’s Klan connection was kept “invisible” at his own request was a trump card for those dedicated to the order’s mission of “Redeeming” the South’s pre-bellum traditions. However invisible, connection to the most illustrious figure of the Confederate war effort gave the Klan prestige and legitimacy, not only during the struggles of post war reconstruction, but also when the Klan re-emerged in 1915. Claiming he had wanted his ties kept secret also made it more difficult for either the general sceptics or the KKK’s enemies to disprove his connection with the vigilante organization of Reconstruction – which they all attempted to do.

 Membership card of A.F. Handcock in the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (1928)


Membership card of A.F. Handcock in the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (1928)

The controversy surrounding Lee’s allegedly “invisible” connection also, of course, makes it more difficult for historians now to accurately assess his connection. Early accounts of the Klan repeat the rumour, largely because the order was seen in a generally positive light. In some measure this was the result of a negative view of the Reconstruction efforts carried out in the post-war South. These Radical Republican-led attempts at racial integration and universal education were almost universally seen as the misguided efforts of unrealistic idealists, or viewed as the actions of corrupt politicians. Further, many of the historians writing histories of the Klan from Reconstruction through until at least the 1920s were, or claimed they were related to, members of the order.

The result was that accounts like that of Susan Lawrence Davis (1924) reiterated the myth offering no hint of its origins and making no attempt to show its authenticity.[1] Merely stating the case seems frequently to be considered enough proof by the standards of the time, but Davis’ background tells us much about her real sympathies. She was the daughter of a Confederate colonel and Klansman, Lawrence Ripley Davis. What is more she draws on equally unreliable sources, like the memoirs of one of the founders, John C Lester.

However, unlike previous accounts, Davis even quotes Lee’s words. She has the general tell the deputation asking him to head the order in May 1867 that, “I would like to assist you in any plan that offers relief. I cannot be with you in person but I will follow you, but it must be invisible.” She goes on to explain, “When this message was delivered to the [Klan] convention it led to the christening of the United Ku Klux Klan, the “Invisible Empire””.

By the end of the 1920s the Klan’s position in American society was less secure. A series of sexual and financial scandals combined with revelations of its violent methods reduced both the numbers and reputation of the order. The result was that even apologists tended to veer away from associating the symbol of Southern chivalry and gentility – Lee – with a tainted order of what even its leader had referred to as violent, ill-educated “second hand Ford owners”. Consequently, most historians since the 1930s have tended to see the Invisible Empire as being an example of the order’s fascination with mysticism.

This securely ties the order back to the craze for secret brotherhoods which swept across the United States in the wake of the Civil War. The period from 1865 to 1930 saw a huge explosion in fraternities of all types, so much so it is referred to as the “Golden Age of Fraternity”. College Greek letter fraternities; fraternities associated with particular trades, ethnicities and interests; fraternities formed to achieve certain aims, as well as the more traditional varieties like the Freemasons, Oddfellows and Shriners all prospered and expanded. One estimate claimed that around 1900, one in five American adult males was a member of at least one fraternity, many belonged to several.

The Klan itself had started as a simple fraternity. Around Christmas 1865, six bored ex-Confederate veterans, recently de-mobbed, formed their own fraternity – simply for entertainment. Like many other contemporary orders secrecy was central to the new fraternity. It had elaborate oaths of secrecy threatening dire punishment for those who spread details of the order. It had weird names to disguise the identity of members, and elaborate costumes to hide their faces. When, by 1868, the order had spread across the Southern states and was terrorizing those attempting to empower and integrate the region’s four million ex-slaves, that invisibility proved vital to avoiding prosecution and counter-attack.

birth-of-nation-movie-poster-900Similarly when the Klan was reformed in 1915, secrecy remained essential, not so much for the protection of its members, but more for the frisson of excitement and exclusivity it gave its members as part of a society made even more famous with the blockbuster release of Birth of a Nation (1915) on the silver screen.

As the Klan organisation expanded in the 1920s its “invisible” nature continued to help it. It enabled recruiters to gull fee-paying members into joining an order that never had anywhere near the ten million members it claimed at its peak in 1924. It allowed the organisation to exaggerate its power, by claiming it had members – sworn to secrecy, of course – at all levels of government from the White House down. It allowed the leadership to disavow actions of members they felt were acting to damage the image of the fraternity and disguise the order’s rapid decline from the mid-1920s onwards. Its leadership apparently found the concept of an “Invisible Empire” had much more to commend it than a visible one..

Klan newspaper of the 1970s.

Klan newspaper of the 1970s.

Having said that the concept of the Invisible Empire has proved a constant headache for historians. Secrecy and exaggeration, added to the lack of records and a reluctance of many to admit their own, or relatives, association with the Klan mean that our histories of the fraternity are necessarily to some extent speculative – especially when it comes to numbers. Nevertheless, this very secrecy makes new theories, new explanations and, of course, new histories of the Klan possible.

Kristofer Allerfeldt will be working on a new history of the Klan in conjunction with his PhD student, Miguel Hernandez, in 2015.

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[1] Susan Lawrence Davis, The Authentic History of the Ku Klux Klan (New York, 1924).

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Reminding People of a Lynching Was What Bothered Them? 

HNN  May 30, 2014

 

155743-LynchingArticleI recently contributed to items in the local press (see here) and on radio (see here) concerning the ninetieth anniversary of a particularly gruesome lynching that took place in Fort Myers, Florida, over the weekend of May 25-26, 1924. Predictably, some local respondents were not happy that this anniversary was being publicized. One disgruntled reader complained, “Just can’t allow racism to fade away can you News Press? Instead of a piece relating how people of different races help each other because of their selfless goodwill (past or present), you all instead choose to keep alive a 90 year old evil doing by long since dead racist murderers.” In this article I will demonstrate why such reactions are mistaken and why these events should continue to be analyzed and explored in public media.

The first reason to keep highlighting this history is that lynching arose from racist stereotyping, a menace that continues in the present day. In Fort Myers in 1924, two black teenagers, aged just 16 and 14 were seen skinny-dipping with two white female friends. The two boys were assumed to be guilty of rape. In an article published by Steve Dougherty in the Fort Myers News-Press in 1976, an eyewitness stated that one of the girls protested that the two boys were innocent of any wrong-doing, yet the boys were still lynched. The racist beliefs of the whites overwhelmed their willingness to view the evidence impartially. This has clear parallels with criminal justice today, where juries can be influenced by the fact that young black males continue to be depicted in some media as criminal and sexually aggressive, instead of being treated as individuals.

The second reason is that the historical record on lynching is incomplete and in need of correction. Although the NAACP did awesome work to keep records of lynchings, it often had to rely on newspaper reports that presented the events from the point of view of the lynchers. In Fort Myers, for example, the motive of the lynchers was recorded as being to punish sexual assault (rape), yet this assault existed only in the eyes of the beholders. No evidence was presented to establish that the lynching victims had committed the alleged crime. The name of one of the victims was repeatedly given as Bubbers Wilson, when infact the death records clearly show that his name was RJ Johnson, a fact that the black community knew very well.

Failure to verify such facts at the time shows the local contempt of authorities for justice and accurate reporting. These violations of the historical record should be corrected; it is surely our duty as scholars to attend to this.

A third reason to focus on such lynchings is to ask our students and readers to walk a mile in the shoes of African-Americans of both historical periods. A white student of today who places himself or herself in the mind of a black male from 1924 can better understand how a young black male must continue to have two “looking glass selves”: a self that is reflected back to him by his fellow blacks, and one that is reflected back to him by a white viewpoint of suspicion and prejudice. Trayvon Martin spent his short life looking into these mirrors, which played a role in his death. Perhaps the student of today will be the juror of tomorrow, and the justice system is more likely to be seen to be doing its job correctly: treating all persons equally before the law, regardless of gender or skin color?

Jonathan Harrison is an adjunct Professor in Sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University whose PhD was in the field of racism and antisemitism.

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1360065831La British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrAnca) pone a disposición de aquellos interesados en la investigación de la historia y cultura de los Estados Unidos, una interesante y valiosa lista de recursos digitales. Esta lista abarca temas tan diversos como la literatura anti-esclavista, Mark Twain y su época, una impresionante colección de  fotos de linchamientos y  una colección de panfletos afro-americanos.

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